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WHAT: NSW school cleaners rally against low-pay, terrible conditions and impossible workloads

WHEN: 12 noon for 12.30pm, Saturday May 11

WHERE: Parramatta Square (Smith St end), Parramatta

VISUALS: Rally speakers address a large rally of cleaners and their supporters.

NSW school cleaners are rallying in Parramatta today (EDS: Saturday) in the largest rally of cleaners in decades as a new survey shows the shocking impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on some of Australia’s lowest-paid workers.

At Parramatta Square, hundreds of NSW Government building cleaners will be supported by speakers from Unions NSW, NSW Teachers Federation, NSW Public Service Association, the NSW Police Association and community group Sydney Alliance.

Cleaners will be joined by busloads of colleagues from the mid-north coast and Newcastle, Wollongong and Canberra as they call for an end to the failed privatisation of cleaning in NSW Government buildings.

A United Workers Union survey of almost 350 NSW school cleaners released to mark the rally shows that with wages as low as $24.07 an hour, cleaners are facing the double whammy of surging housing costs while stuck on wages barely above the minimum wage.

With almost three quarters of cleaners reporting a significant jump in rent or mortgage expenses in the last year, NSW cleaners say they are cutting back on essential bills:

  • 76% say they delay medical treatment.
  • 89% say they cut back on heating.
  • Just over half say they have missed meals simply because they have run out of money.

Survey results indicate the high impact of the cost-of-living crisis on 7000 cleaners in every corner of the state, covering cleaners in Primary Schools, High Schools, TAFEs, police stations, court houses, ambulance stations and office buildings.

“The survey reveals in stark detail that when prices soar, it’s the lowest paid who cop it the worst,” Lyndal Ryan, United Workers Union Property Services Director, said today.

“The unfortunate results of this survey further prove the absolute failure of the contracts signed by the previous Coalition Government, and their negative impact on students, teachers, schools, community buildings, cleaners and their communities.

“It’s a blight on the Australian ethos of a fair go that these cleaners are trapped on pay and conditions no other worker in a NSW Government building faces.”

The survey also shows private sector contractors routinely fail to give cleaners the time or equipment necessary to do their job:

  • 53% report cleaner hours at their school have been cut back this year from last year.
  • 86% say they don’t always have the equipment or cleaning materials necessary to complete their tasks.
  • 85% say they don’t always have enough time to complete their tasks.

“It’s a race-to-the-bottom tendering system where profits are put first and cleaners inside NSW Government buildings are treated as second-class citizens,” Ms Ryan said.

“There is a great opportunity here for the NSW Government to fix the appalling conditions school and other government building cleaners are facing every day.”

Cleaners said in the survey:

“Cost of living is shocking. Who can buy lamb cutlets at $48 a kilo? Someone gave me 4 lamb cutlets for my birthday.”

“When sites fail you are spoken to terribly from senior staff.”

“I work two jobs just to have food and a roof.  My rent went up $185 a week, I’m now using my savings to survive.”

“The contractor just cuts hours and we are all over working.”

“Lack of the correct equipment. Lack of time. Lack of understanding of management. Lack of pay.”

“I live week-to-week.  I can’t get ahead. I don’t go out or go anywhere as I can’t afford it.”

“(I) just want to work and not be broke. Haven’t had a holiday in 13 years.”